It’s a rare thing, but it’s time for a new-to-Big-Finish Doctor-Companion team! Yes, in what is possibly the last TV team yet to be recaptured via full cast audio drama (with the original cast members), we have the start of a four-story series involving The Doctor, Romana and Adric trying to escape from E-Space. Purgatory 12 also does that classic Big Finish thing of filling in a gap in character development, as Adric starts to come to terms with the death of his brother, something never really explored on the original show. Does it work? Let’s find out!
Still searching for a way out of E-Space, the TARDIS crew land on an isolated space rock… and immediately find it drawn towards a nearby asteroid.
The asteroid has air and gravity unequal to its size and is strewn with the wrecks of spaceships. Veins and pools of rust are everywhere.
Stuck on the asteroid away from his friends, Adric discovers that it’s a penal colony housing a gang of alien convicts – but resources are low, and they’re starting to starve.
But escaping the prisoners is only the first part of the traveller’s troubles. Because there’s a sinister presence at the heart of the asteroid… and it won’t release them quite as easily.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
A good cover, but the attempt at a “Rust cloud Romana” just ends up looking like they accidentally used an image for Romana twice.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, this is set straight after State of Decay, the second story of the E-Space trilogy and the story where The Doctor and Romana accept Adric, who snuck on board the TARDIS, as a companion. Adric lost his brother during his debut story and it was just never addressed, as was usual for the time, but here we see The Doctor and Romana unsure on how to handle having such a young companion, and Adric unsure on how to deal with his grief. This leads to Adric and The Doctor having a good old fashioned parent-teenager argument that ends with The Doctor opening the TARDIS doors and telling Adric that if he wanted to leave, then leave… which he does. The Doctor says to Romana that he’s going to bump the TARDIS ahead a few minutes and Adric will be waiting for them, but they soon notice that this is no ordinary asteroid they left him on and begin to search for him…
The asteroid is Purgatory 12, a penal colony that has a cast of prisoners, a crazy warden who seemingly talks to herself, and lots of tremors and unexplained happenings. Adric ends up becoming a part of the colony itself as extra staff, Romana meets an honourable knight type character called Crimsson, and K9 meets Crimsson’s ship A.I. and soon considers it his first proper “friend”. What’s The Doctor doing during all this time? Well, getting mixed up with the prisoners, and trying to win Adric back to his side… badly. Lots going on in the first half, then it all starts to come together.
You see the tremors and weird goings on (like a dust storm of rust that makes duplicates of people) are all the fault of the monster at the heart of the asteroid, “The Gullet”, later revealed to be called “Darklish”. It’s pretty much a stroppy child not unlike Adric, and so the two start to form a bond (which sends the warden, who thought she was the only one capable of talking with it, crazy…erm, crazier), a bond that includes quite a bit of chess for some reason. Chess and walls made entirely out of corpses. Those too. There is also the weird discovery that the inmates are already dead and are being revived by the rust… That was The Doctor’s discovery while Adric and Romana were playing in the Gullet.
It’s safe to say it got weird! The finale, of course, sees Darklish dethroned (via a giant rust army battle between itself and The Doctor in a scene that was beautifully vivid despite being audio only) and the warden and inmates now free (but unlikely to reform if they die the next time). The Doctor sits down with Adric and talks to him about loss and how it only gets more frequent as you get older, which was well written and acted, and generally all the death and talk of inevitable entropy all feels very Season 18, so well done Big Finish there! A focus on Adric, and oddly K9 makes this story feel very fresh and interesting, despite some familiar elements.
The overall box cover doesn’t give away much beyond the main cast, does it?
Not much! I will say that around Part 3 the story slows to a crawl, not really getting back in gear until the final part. Not the end of the world, but it did stick out to me…
Not much either, as was always going to be the case when you’re in an entirely different universe! Obviously, as already mentioned, it takes place in between “State of Decay” and “Warrior’s Gate”, a new gap for Big Finish to play with!
Purgatory 12 is a really good story, plugging a new gap with some character moments for Adric and a good chunk of “this is how they’re suddenly so chummy by Warriors Gate” bit of relationship building. There are some slow bits that stops me from giving it a 5, but it’s well worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of the era.